Bow down, gentlemen. Women on top in the Electric City are being seen and heard without asking permission to make their mark. And It’s about damn time.
You’d have to be trapped in a cave with a soccer team in Thailand to not notice the new wave of feminism surging across the country. Female empowerment isn’t only the object of cultural discourse these days, but overdue action. Women are now believed when they speak up against sexual misconduct in the workplace. Between Congressional and state-level races, more than 2,000 women are running for office right now. They’re single mothers, veterans, athletes, refugees, Democrats, and Republicans.
Still, you could be living on the streets of Lackawanna Ave. eavesdropping every conversation and likely overhear more comments about peeing in a cup by court order than praise for the influence of women breaking barriers for future generations — which makes me wonder: Why the hell isn’t anyone talking about the city’s strong women?
We know about Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman elected to Congress last June. But what about Jessica Eskra, the youngest female city solicitor of Scranton? She’s blazing the trail for local millennials to be in positions of power.
Maggie Timoney made news when becoming the first female CEO of a major American beer company this summer (Heineken USA). But where was the regional attention when Jennifer Warnetsky became the general manager of the Marketplace at Steamtown and Scranton Public Market? It’s probably only one of the biggest business developments in the city.
Tech firms such as Facebook captured headlines for offering benefits to pay for women to freeze their eggs for inspiration to focus on their careers, but where was the pat on the back for Jessica Kalinoski, Director of Operations at Admiral Management Group, who manages such properties as the Connell Building, The Leonard and Montage Mountain Ski Resort and Water Park? Kalinoski’s efforts to accommodate working mothers who don’t delay starting a family should be revered. A mother of four, Kalinsoki let’s her employees bring their kids to work if needed. “I hired a woman who was 7 months pregnant,” Kalinoski told Better than the Weekend. “She was worried she wasn’t going to be able to find a job. But I hired her. I felt she was the best person for the job. I told her we’d figure it out. She ended up having the baby 11 days later. She came to work when she could.”
Since nobody seems to be having the conversation loudly enough, Better than the Weekend decided to spend an afternoon with some of the city’s women in power — in areas such as education, philanthropy, business and entrepreneurship — at the historic Scranton Cultural Center to find out where they feel Scranton stands in this cultural movement. Oh, and to recognize their groundbreaking leadership.
Dr. Alexis Kirijan
(First Female) Superintendent of Schools in Scranton
Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? I grew up in this area. I grew up in this school district. I graduated high school in 1966. You have to start thinking about what the world was like in 1966. That was the time when women were really trying to fight for their rights. There were movements with women like Gloria Steinem. Women were looking to be equal to men in the workplace and in general in society. For me, to get in the position I am in now, I’ve had to work very hard and get as much education as possible to reach this pinnacle. I am the first woman superintendent in this school district and this school district has been around a long time. The concept was always that a superintendent role was a place for a man and women would serve in other roles that served the superintendent. There were many times when I was more qualified than a man who got a promotion. It made me realize I had to work harder. I had to be more educated. I had to be willing to accept less in the workplace to get where I finally wanted to be.
Is there a message you want students in your district to understand about the power of women? In the past, science, technology, engineering and math seemed to be something males were better in and women or girls were not involved in as much. What we’re doing in our district, is we’re getting girls involved in STEM education. For our 7th grade students, we have what we call the Salvadori STEM program and it’s funded by the Scranton Area Community Foundation. But a piece we’ve added to that through the Women in Philanthropy in this area is a STEM education club for girls in our schools. We have women who are involved in science, technology, engineering and math professions come talk to the students. It’s a way for girls to have other women to look up to and know there are other possibilities for them as they’re growing up and deciding what they want to do. It’s a way for our students, girls and boys, to see women can grow up to do anything.
Did you ever think you’d be superintendent? This goal was 50 years in the making. When I was in high school, my goal one day was to be the superintendent of a high school. I was strongly influenced by the male principal and assistant principal in my high school, Scranton High School. I wanted to understand how this machine was running. I did an internship in the principals office when I was in high school. That really kicked me off in education. I always had the goal of being a superintendent. You can imagine the joy I had when Judge Munley had me raise my right hand and take the oath of superintendent — and while I was next to my husband, who I met when I was 18 years old, who had supported me all of my career. It was such a feeling of accomplishment. I feel like I’m doing my life’s work here. I never gave up. I think the secret to perseverance is finding something you can see in your future that is meaningful to you.
How do you define a powerful woman? Smart. Educated. There’s a difference between being smart and educated. I think you need both.
General Manager of Crunch
Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? I struggle to be taken seriously every single day. I’ll explain a policy to someone and they’ll think I’m being rude. My husband also works with me. Sometimes I’ll have to grab him to explain something. When he’ll explain the same policy in the same tone, people will respect it. It’s ridiculous. As a woman, I’ve found I have to work harder on my delivery to come across softer because as a female I can be mistaken as being a bitch instead of just being serious. When a guy has a serious tone, it’s expected and accepted.
Do you think Scranton is above the curve or behind the times when it comes to gender equality? When I first got to Scranton, I had trouble with people taking me seriously in the community as a woman. But then I met people like John Basalyga, who owns the Marketplace, who believes in people for their work ethic whether they’re male or female. I’ve watched John deal with a lot of women in his group. It seems like I’m seeing a lot of women in management in these stores here at the Marketplace. The general manager of the Marketplace is a woman. When I go to events with the Chamber of Commerce, there’s a lot of women there. I think things are moving in the right direction.
Who’s a powerful woman you look up to? Someone I look up to right now is Mari Potis with the Scranton Chamber of Commerce. I’m not originally from this community. She has guided me through the hardships I have come across being new to the community. She has given me great advice. I really look up to her and what she’s doing for the community.
How do you define a powerful woman? Strong. A powerful woman can look someone in the eyes and admit when they’re wrong, but also feel confident to say, ‘Hey, I’m right, and you need to accept it.’
Director of Leadership Lackawanna
Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? In general, young females have to work very hard. We have to prove ourselves more than men. I don’t think men have as hard of a time proving themselves in our community. Men in our community will take other men under their wing and parade them around. We don’t see powerful women with an entourage of young females being paraded around like you do with the men in our community. The opportunity isn’t right for women to do it, because they’re working so much harder to have to prove themselves.
Do you think Scranton is above the curve or behind the times when it comes to gender equality? The people that have roles of power in Scranton are from families or positions where they already had power, influence or recognition. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. If you’re not already known and established in Scranton, it takes you a long time to break into the community and establish yourself. Our strong traditions is why Scranton is behind the times in general, including gender equality. I absolutely love some of our traditions, so I feel torn saying this, but it’s holding Scranton back because it’s preventing new blood from coming in and contributing.
Strides have been made in the current women’s rights movement — but what still needs to be done? The Chamber of Commerce gives a Woman of Excellence award every year. We have a very hard time getting women to apply for that award because they don’t want to brag about themselves. It bothers me we have to convince women to apply for an award. There’s no shame in a woman admitting her own strengths and recognizing that they’re great at something. The more women that are in the public eye, the better it would be for all of the women in the community.
How do you define a powerful woman? A suit and shoulder pads.
Vice-Chair of Leadership Lackawanna
Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? I have to monitor my behavior more than men have to. If women are too soft, they’re a delicate flower. If we’re too stern, we’re a bitch and people won’t work with us. Women have to constantly think before they speak just because they’re a woman and their behavior will be judged more harshly than a man’s.
Is there a message you want young women to understand about the power of women? Women can do anything. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I have absolutely no desire to ever have children. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Looking back at my parents’ generation, my mom was married at like 18 or 19.
Strides have been made in the current women’s rights movement — but what still needs to be done? We need to take our beliefs off social media. We can say we want gender equality and more women in office, but nobody around here is acting on those beliefs.
How do you define a powerful woman? A powerful woman is a woman who isn’t afraid to pat themselves on the back and give themselves the credit they deserve, whether they’re a stay-at-home mom or a businesswoman.
Owner of AOS Metals
Do you think Scranton is above the curve or behind the times when it comes to gender equality? Scranton is making huge strides in the improvement for success of women in business. I’m a prime example. I took all the free classes and went to all the meetings the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center had to offer. I was a successful graduate of their 6 week startup program and they stayed with me every step of the way and were there to help me celebrate when I opened the doors to my store.
Who’s a powerful woman you look up to? Meegan Possemato. She’s the co-owner of ON & ON. I know I never would have been able to start my own business in a downtown storefront without her. Meegan is an inspiration to be around and has helped me make important business decisions. I see her do the same for many people that come across her path. I admire women who uplift and support each other. I’ve seen it firsthand in Scranton at the Entrepreneurship Center and Women in Philanthropy. The best way to success is having a great support system that’ll help you stay sane in the face of doubt.
Have you ever felt you had to work harder because you’re a woman? I have been blessed that I never felt being a female held me back from anything. When people find out I’m a metalsmith, most people think it’s badass. But recently, I was disappointed when I saw the local news station show a segment talking about a high school football dinner where I basically learned who works out with who. Meanwhile, the Tunkannock Softball Team was one game away from a regional title that would send them to the Little League World Series and there was no coverage at all. Now they’re finally getting the coverage from the news, but it took an army of people to stand up and say something. It’s heartbreaking to see girls have to fight harder to be recognized. It’s heartbreaking to see anyone have to fighter harder to feel equal.
Gowns for Charlene DellaValle, Nicole Morristell, Kristen Shemanski and Kari Johnson were provided by Elegant Bridal & Boutique.
20 Questions with NFL QB Matt McGloin
Matt McGloin is a hero in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania — and not just because he went on to become a starting quarterback for Penn State who made it to the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs QB isn’t forgetting his roots. McGloin is using his platform to raise money with an annual charity event focused on improving the lives of people in need throughout Northeastern PA, a region that could greatly benefit from the influence of an idol beyond the legendary Michael Scott and sea of The Office GIF’s circulating the internet.
The third annual Matt McGloin Charity Golf Tournament will tee off Sunday, July 16. Better than the Weekend played a game of 20 Questions with the QB before the event.
What inspired you to launch this event? My father was president of Lackawanna Little League for a long time. Him and my mom were always raising money for the little league. I grew up watching them help raise money and help out in any way they could. I always knew I’d do something like that, too. And Scranton is where I grew up. The area is important to me. I want to help make the community stronger.
Can people still register? Yes. Absolutely. They can visit the Facebook page or call 570-604-3315.
How much money has your charity raised so far? Almost $40,000.
When you’re not in season, what do you miss most about the city of Scranton? The food.
Who has the best pizza in Scranton? Maroni’s.
Who has the best wings in Scranton? Rep’s.
Where’s your favorite place to hang out in Scranton? At home with family and friends.
A Scranton coach was accused recently of bullying his players, igniting a debate of how tough a coach should be on a student athlete. What coaching style did you experience as a student and how did it impact you? I think what it comes down to as a coach, and I can say this because as a quarterback you’re somewhat a coach on the field, there’s a different way to talk to everybody. As a coach, you need to understand that. Not everybody has the same attitude. Not everybody has the same personality. You may be able to yell at one guy and it may help him get the job done after you yell at him but the other guy may not respond in the right way to that. You have to know how to talk to them to get the best out of them. It’s a coaches responsibility to take the time to learn about each and every one of the players and how they respond to coaching. At the end of the day, we’re all there to win.
What’s the best advice you ever got? My mom always told me to have no regrets. That would be the best advice I ever got.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? I’d tell myself there’s gonna be good days and there’s gonna be bad days, but everything is gonna be alright and I’m gonna get through it.
What advice would you give student athletes who dream of going pro? You have to make sacrifices. You gotta get your practice in. Maybe you might not be able to go to the beach for a week. Maybe you can only go for two days. But making sacrifices is something you need to know and be willing to accept.
If you weren’t playing football, what would you be doing? Well, I have a degree in broadcast journalism. I think I’d like to be a sports analyst. Sports in general have always been a big part of my life. Growing up, I went baseball, football, basketball, right in a row. Non-stop.
What’s something people might be surprised to know about you? I’m pretty low-key. When I get some free time, I enjoy it. I like to sit on the couch and watch movies and take my dog for walks.
Liquor or beer? Beer. Anything Sam Adams.
What’s something every guy should try at least once in his life? Travel the world.
Football players have been under a lot of scrutiny by taking a knee. Reactions ranged from support to open contempt from President Trump and the NFL ultimately banning the act of protest. Do you support the right to take the knee or do you stand with the NFL’s decision? I stand for the National Anthem. I’ve never taken a knee and I never would take a knee. Personally, I don’t think politics should be involved in sports. I have a job to do. I’m part of the Kansas City Chiefs. I will do what I’m told to do. That’s what I believe in.
What’s your favorite quote? ‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.’
How has the money raised from your charity been used to help people in Northeastern PA? The whole idea of the charity is to keep all of the money donated in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We helped provide medical assistance to a young kid that had cancer. We threw a Christmas brunch and gave gifts to 180 veterans at the Gino Merli Veterans Center. We handed out over 400 turkeys to families around the holidays. We helped provide dental care services for more than 7,000 underprivileged children in the community. And we’re just getting started.
Where is the event taking place? Glen Oak Country Club in Clarks Summit.
What helps you get through the week? I want to earn my days off. I work extremely hard during the week in the weight room, conditioning, throwing the football, doing workouts, studying the playbook, stuff like that, so I can feel like I earned my time off on Saturday and Sunday. There’s something about that sense of satisfaction from knowing you had a great lift this week or a great throwing session and feeling like you worked really hard during the week.
For more information on the golf tournament, click right here and head over to the official Facebook page.
‘I served in the Armed Forces, stop assuming we all have PTSD’
My name is Earl. I’m a retired solider of the U.S. Army. I lost my leg in June 2008 from a roadside bomb while leaving a site to build a school in a village in Afghanistan. Now please stop assuming I have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
When it comes to our Armed Forces, society assumes we all have PTSD. Once, an organization asked if I wanted to go on a hunting trip. The person on the other line said: “We can help you with your PTSD.” I then asked: “What makes you automatically assume I have PTSD?”
There was some awkward silence.
Needless to say, I didn’t go on that hunting trip. Hunting was never really my thing anyway.
Now do I acknowledge that PTSD is a real problem that affects many of our Armed Forces? Absolutely. However, part of raising awareness around post-traumatic stress disorder is helping people realize that it’s not just a military issue. I truly am humbled the way society looks after our Armed Forces now compared to 40 years ago. I just wish people would stop putting a blanket over us and assume we’re all the same. PTSD is obviously real, but anybody can struggle with thoughts of past experiences, not just our Armed Forces community.
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the day I lost my leg. I remember gaining consciousness after being knocked out only momentarily. I remember two MEDEVAC choppers coming — one to carry me and an Afghan governor and another to carry the remains of my comrades SPC Derek Holland and MAJ Scott Hagerty. I remember thinking my life was going to end.
Personally, I stopped letting it control my life.
I stopped labeling myself as a victim and looked for a new purpose after the uniform came off. I started challenging my amputation with more and more goals I’d make for myself, even some that were included in honor of Derek, Scott, and my late twin brother, Army SSG Joe Granville, who took his own life in 2010. It started to take my mind off of the adversities that happened in my life, and eventually I started helping those in situations similar to mine and assisting them in reaching their goals.
To my brothers & sisters in arms: All I ask of you is to take off the Dysfunctional Veteran shirt and move forward and continue to be something great. Don’t let the dark days define the rest of your life. Step out of your comfort zone, filter out the bad in your life, and be a part of something that makes a difference again, just like you once did in uniform.
The Armed Forces culture taught us to be a warrior, and some of that training and experience, good or bad, will stick with us for the rest of our lives. Remember, no matter what you experienced, the world doesn’t owe us anything. Put the self-ego away, be prideful of that small, but possibly heavy time in your life, and continue to have that Warrior Spirit and understand if that heavy plate still holds you down, you don’t have to carry it alone. Whether it’s from a professional or a close friend, you know you don’t have to hold it by yourself.
As society, military or not, we should all carry that weight together. We’re human; and as humans we are going to face heavy times in our lives, military or not.
Earl Granville is a nine-year veteran as an infantryman in the Army National Guard, with two combat deployments and one peace keeping. He is retired holding the rank of Staff Sergeant with awards such as Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman Badge. He is a graduate of Lackawanna College and working on his undergrad at the University of Scranton. He travels the country as a public speaker discussing healthy ways to battle adversity and continuing to find a purpose after a door closes. Earl is a team member for the military non profits Operation Enduring Warrior and Oscar Mike. Follow his journey on Facebook.
Damn Scranton, Back at It Again with the Questionable Taxes!
As perilously as a sorority girl relying on iced coffee to keep her life together on a Monday morning, the city of Scranton is calculating nefarious taxes on just about any thing and any one they can to safeguard its seemingly incompetent leadership.
Scranton’s latest target: John Basalyga. The entrepreneur was billed earlier this month an overwhelming $254,920.80 for questionable taxes on a parking garage he owns in downtown Scranton. (And here I was pissed off about my Comcast bill. I’m definitely counting my blessings now.)
Anyways, here’s what we know:
Basalyga bought a parking garage in September 2016.
The garage was a tax-exempt property when it was purchased.
The Lackawanna County tax assessor’s office admittedly allowed the privately owned parking garage to remain tax-exempt since 2017.
When a Scranton resident complained at a city council meeting earlier this month about the garage remaining tax-exempt, the tax assessor’s office decided to change the garage’s classification from exempt to taxable.
Even though the garage was just changed from a tax-exempt property to a taxable property less than two weeks ago, a bill for 2017 and 2018 was sent, including late fees, so high that it could afford to buy all 402 Scranton High Class of 2018 graduates three pairs of Yeezys and still have money left over.
Now that sounds like a foolishly large amount of taxes for less than a year and a half — unless the city knows something about the property that no-one else knows, like Pablo Escobar stashing cocaine between layers of bricks in the garage and giving the property assessment an immoderate value. I could understand that. But without a shit-ton of cocaine from a notorious Colombian drug lord, I just don’t get it. Do you?
Better than the Weekend called the deputy director of assessments for Lackawanna County directly — his name is John Foley — seeking answers in hopes of understanding why the county is collecting taxes on a property for dates before the property became taxable. Foley angrily refused to comment on the matter. However, when I called pretending to be a student at Lackawanna College working on a paper for my summer class, I uncovered a more candid response from the woman who answered the phone. She claimed the taxes were billed due to an oversight and identified it as the tax assessor office’s fault.
It gets worse. Apparently, the Lackawanna County tax assessor’s office has a history with oversights. Better than the Weekend exclusively spoke with a woman whose property was carelessly sold in a sheriff’s sale due to an oversight — even though she paid her taxes.
Jamie Constantine, who owns The Velvet Elvis vintage shop in Scranton, also co-owns Spring Hills Farm in Dalton. She says she was taken aback when a man approached her property a few years ago claiming he needed access to the land because he just purchased it from a sheriff’s sale. It turned out the Lackawanna County assessor’s office sold a portion of the land because of an oversight in filing their paid taxes.
“It cost more than $5,000 in legal fees to get it taken care of even though we were paying our taxes the entire time,” Constantine said.
That’s hard-earned money the owners of Spring Hills Farm never saw again.
That right there is proof Scranton’s government retains the kind of self-sabotage frat boys usually grow out of. However, unlike light beer and cheap handles of vodka, the power that comes from being an elected official is an intoxicating feeling these Peter Pans in positions of power can’t seem to detach from as the years pass by, their hairlines recede and problems grow bigger and bigger.
In a report by Eyewitness News, Foley said his office decided to “roll the dice” when sending Basalyga a bill for nearly $255k. Is it just me, or should someone in that kind of position speak more assuredly on behalf of sending a bill for the price of a small yacht and not like someone who just had to sign himself out of Mohegan Sun?
If the tax assessor’s office decided to change the tax classification of John Basalyga’s garage moving forward, that’s fine. Scranton’s financial state is in undeniable peril. No property should be exempt from taxes right now. Yet, somehow, an astonishing 33 percent of the properties in Scranton are exempt from paying taxes, largely placing the burden on homeowners struggling to keep a roof over their head. No city should have one-third of its property exempt from taxes.
Whoever allowed that to happen deserves diarrhea so messy that they have to take a shower after. Imagine how much it would help if the mayor grew a backbone and pushed for every property to be taxable for just the next decade. It seems, however, the mayor wants to be in office so he can cut ribbons and practice his Rosetta Stone on the Bar Pazzo menu.
If you’re a church, think about this: What would Jesus do? Would he not pay taxes if it meant families would struggle to keep their home? I don’t speak for the divine daddy J, but I doubt it.
As for The University of Scranton, know this: They keep expanding and buying properties downtown that takes tax money away from the city and likely cause taxes to spike for hardworking families who spend their entire lives here, unlike the students. When the university bought a building on Courthouse Square in 2012, the city lost out on the taxes it provided. The previous owner of that building paid $15,590 in school taxes alone. Just that property’s taxes could help buy a lot of supplies for students that underpaid teachers are left responsible to cover. According to their website, The University of Scranton’s 2016-2017 school year revenue was more than $224 million while the city of Scranton’s revenue was less than half of that. If the university is raking in a quarter of a billion dollars in a single school year, and Scranton is struggling, they could manage to allocate some of that to pay taxes for a few years to help the city out.
Perhaps this is the biggest question: If 33 percent of properties in Scranton aren’t being taxed, why is the city attacking John Basalyga and his parking garage? Basalyga is one of, if not the, biggest investors in Scranton right now. He invested millions into saving the mall and transforming it into a marketplace. Basalyga has a vision for this city and is actually taking action to try to build it up. What message does this send someone interested in bringing a business here — that Scranton grasps at straws when it needs money and attacks people they think can foot a bill? Of all the property owners you could attack, you decide to go after one of the few people who would invest large sums of money into saving the city? That’s an abuse of power. That’s like slapping your wife across the face and then expecting her to make you dinner and iron your clothes for the next workday. Or, maybe it’s just like Scranton politics.
Perhaps a positive takeaway here is that people are being heard at city council meetings. Hopefully people will go and encourage Scranton to roll the dice in the right direction and ask for John Foley’s resignation. His leadership is clearly ineffective. His office’s oversights are costing the city seemingly due taxes and residents legal fees to prove they paid taxes. It would be great if people would encourage council to not use taxpayer money to fight Basalyga’s likely appeal and put more effort into noticeably slimming the percentage of tax-exempt properties in the Electric City.
And before Scranton politicians and tax collectors fall asleep at night, which I don’t know how many of them (not all) do with a clear conscience, they should ask themselves this: What would Michael Scott have to say? Like Jesus, I don’t speak for Michael Scott, but I imagine he’d probably say something like:
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